This is a sponsored post created in collaboration with Villeroy & Boch
Entertaining is one of my favourite things about the festive season. I love gathering everyone around mine and enjoying that satisfying, warm, fuzzy feeling of good food and great company. I like to do things simply so over the years I’ve devised some easy ways to take the stress out of it.
For me, gatherings should be honest, simple affairs – it’s all about making people feel at home. The food matters of course, but often it’s an evening as a whole that people will remember – the ambience, the flowing conversation, the little touches that make an ordinary dinner special.
So I’ve teamed up with Villeroy & Boch to share my top simple entertaining ideas for New Year and beyond, from setting the scene and creating an intimate gathering, to the simple finishes and little touches that will wow your guests.
Here I’ve styled their Boston range in a light, relaxed setting (all items are linked at the bottom of the post). A natural linen tablecloth gives a neutral backdrop, while vibrant branches of eucalyptus add greenery and life to the pared-back table. It’s subtly festive but could equally provide inspiration for another occasion at a different time of year.
The crystal glasses are diamond cut and come in a smokey grey colour, giving the scene a dash of sparkle and element of glamour for a special occasion. Retro Accessories glass footed bowls show off some simple smoked salmon canapés – they can be stacked for visual impact – while Coloured DeLight tea light holders set the mood with their soft glow. All that’s needed is the ‘pop’ of a champagne cork…
But let’s get on with my tips, I’ve put them into bullet points to make them quick and easy to read, here we go:
– When it comes to food and nibbles, prepare what you know – attempting a complicated, new recipe on the day will just add an extra layer of stress
– Instead of making blinis from scratch, used knackerbrod crackers and pile up with smoked salmon, creme fraiche mixed with some chopped herbs and capers, and topped with slices of lemon. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
– Or if you’re vegetarian, finely dice some juicy tomatoes with a little shallot, mix with some olive oil, salt and pepper, top with a basil leaf on a cracker and you have rustled up a quick bruschetta
– Other favourite canapés include wedges of jammy figs wrapped in prosciutto with sprig of rosemary sautéed in butter; prawns dressed in mayonnaise, lemon zest and chilli flakes laid on baby gem leaves; pea, mint and feta dip with crudites; and a super simple, favourite Italian of mine – prosciutto twirled around crunchy breadsticks
– Serve on rustic wooden chopping boards for an easy, relaxed yet impactful display
– Don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring things themselves, they’ll more often than not be happy to help. There’s nothing as laid-back and chilled as a pot-luck party
– Create a ‘make your own gin + tonic ‘ board, with slices of lemon, grapefruit and ginger, a few berries and fragrant herbs so guests can pick and choose
– Or alternatively, infuse your gin – the day or two before a dinner or drinks, add herbs or fruit to a bottle of gin and leave in a cool, dark place. Leave a week for a stronger infusion. Ideas include festive rosemary and pomegranate, ginger and black pepper, clementine and cinnamon.
Think about the little details – set the mood and create a warm, welcoming setting. After all, food and drink is just a fraction of the experience:
– Focus on soft lighting to create a cosy atmosphere. Add fairy lights for a bit of sparkle or stock up on scented candles and tea lights and dot around the room. Smokey winter scents such as sandalwood, frankincense and myrrh will instantly get guests in the festive mood
– Bring the outside in and decorate with seasonal, festive foliage to add colour and greenery to your home. It doesn’t have to cost the earth – look to your garden or local countryside for inspiration. You could tie a couple of sprigs of herbs and place on each setting, arrange clusters of pine cones along the dinner table, or hang up branches of mistletoe. Less is more
– Keep things relaxed and easy instead of stiff and formal – place glasses and drinks ingredients on a table or bar cart so everyone can help themselves (and you can move around the room and get back to the kitchen if needed), don’t forget a bottle opener and some ice. Arrange canapés and larger dishes on big sharing plates for everyone to dig in, it can be a conversation starter between guests and will save you taking time to dress each plate. These glass stands are great because it leaves a bit more space on the table for smaller decorative touches
– Curate a Spotify playlist with some favourite tunes and add some festive background music
– Remember the finishing touches and little treats for guests – for instance, you could arrange individual golden wrapped chocolates in small cups and dot along the table or around the room for people to pick at
– Relax and savour the evening, guests will be in an easier mood if you’re enjoying it too, not stressing. The key I think, is being prepared and cutting back on the faff of making and doing things when guests arrive, so you can maximise time spent with them. Leave washing up for later and don’t worry about the mess
Has that got you into the party mood? The best bit of festive entertaining for me is when all the hard work and preparation is done (but really with my tips above, it shouldn’t be that hard at all) – when you can gather everyone around the table, laugh, drink and be merry. It’s all about simply being together and enjoying the moment.
With that in mind, I’m signing off for 2017 for a well-earned break over Christmas and New Year. I wish you all a wonderful, restful, cosy and calm break. I’ll see you back here in 2018 bright eyed and bushy tailed!
Featured Villeroy & Boch products (borrowed for the shoot):
Boston glassware, in smoke, £5.53 for a tumbler, £10.43 for a wine glass, £10.43 for a bowl and £10.43 for a champagne flute
Coloured DeLight tea light holders, £14.90 each
Retro Accessories footed bowls, from £39.90 to £89.90
All images Cate St Hill